The BYU men’s tennis team opened their 2013 season with a double-header victory over in-state rivals Utah State and Weber State Saturday at the Indoor Tennis Courts.
Even with an earlier start to the season than usual, and some new rule changes, the Cougars’ still looked very good in their two victories, 7-0 against both the Aggies and the Wildcats.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association implemented a new format this year for doubles which eliminated the need for a duo to win the game by two points. Instead it is now whoever scores four points’ first wins. BYU Head Coach Brad Pearce noticed a difference in the play, but was happy with how his team responded.
“This was our first match under the new format, so no deuce-add, just the first one to win four points,” Pearce said. “I think things went quicker and every point became that much more important. Once our guys got used to that I think they came back strong and finished really well.”
The Cougars opened up the scoring against Utah State by winning two of their three doubles matches. Junior Patrick Kawka from Reno, Nev. and sophomore Francis Sargeant from Beckenham, England, were the first Cougars duo to record a victory, defeating their Utah State opponents 8-4. Keaton Cullimore, a sophomore from Sandy, Utah, and freshman John Pearce from Provo also recorded a victory for BYU with an 8-5 win.
“I love playing with Francis,” Kawka said. “We read each other so well.”
The lone loss for the Cougars came in a thrilling tiebreaker with junior Travis Fillmore from Tahlequah, Okla., and senior teammate Spencer Smith from Salt Lake City, Utah. They battled back and forth against their Aggie counterparts Sven Poslusny and Marcus Fritz and looked to finish the game off after taking a 6-5 lead, but the Aggies battled back to tie the set at 6-6 and send it to a tiebreak.
After going down 5-1 in the tiebreak the Aggies rattled off four straight points to tie it at 5-5 and went on to win 9-7.
“It was pretty good,” Poslusny said. “We just hung in there and stayed tough mentally. We had four match points against us but we believed in ourselves; it was a big win for us”
The Cougars didn’t let that loss get them down though and they came out firing in the singles matches. The Cougars’ No. 1 player, who is also regionally ranked, Kawka led the way for the Cougar squad defeating Poslusny. After Kawka got up 3-0 in the first set Poslusly fought his way back to a 3-3 tie, but the junior from Reno, Nev., was able to pull out the first set 6-3 and won the next set handily 6-1.
“I got up 3-0, and then I got a little nervous,” Kawka said, “When it got to 3-all, I refocused and said, ‘You gotta just go back to the basics and put balls in play.’ Once he made some mistakes I felt confident to go for some more shots.”
Sitting at 2-0, BYU will now face their first road test of the season this week in New York against Fordham University on Friday, and Columbia University on Jan. 21.